What Causes Leprosy?

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is caused by a slow-growing bacteria named Mycobacterium leprae. It is a chronic condition that can cause damage to the skin, eyes, inside of the nose, muscles, and nerves. It can be spread through physical proximity. It is an airborne infection, which spreads as the infected person breaths, sneezes, or coughs.

The bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae is responsible for majorly affecting the skin and causing damage to peripheral nerves.It is a slow-growing bacteria, but its progression can be prevented and reversed. Leprosy is a curable disease. When the treatment is taken on time, the risk of health complications can be eliminated.

The infected individual releases tiny droplets in the air, which contain infectious bacteria. These droplets get released into the environment and if a healthy person inhales these bacteria, they might get infected too. This is why one must maintain a safe distance from a patient affected with leprosy.

Is leprosy contagious? 

Sitting next to the infected person or having some physical contact can potentiate the risk of transfer of bacteria. Leprosy is not very contagious when the person is taking the treatment properly. It becomes highly contagious only when the person has left their condition untreated, and the disease has caused severe damage to their health. Also, sexual contact with an affected person must be avoided, as the risk of transfer is high.

Who is more likely to get leprosy?

Children are more susceptible to this infection. Therefore, utter care must be taken. If you have been around any person who has this disease, or a friend, a member of your family, or a relative has got this infection, then you must see your healthcare provider immediately, screening tests will reveal if you have any risk of developing the disease. The disease develops slowly and therefore, it might take several years for the person to develop the symptoms of leprosy.

People with low immunity or immunity-related disorders must be extra careful, as the possibility of progression of this disease is high among them. The ability to fight off the infection is weak among them, which is why they are more prone to the infection.

Is leprosy curable?

Fortunately, this disease is curable. Early screening and detection of the disease will be helpful in starting the treatment. When the treatment is begun on time, the progression of the disease will be prevented, and the condition can be reversed. The person can completely recover from the condition.

The healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection. The duration of recovery may differ depending on the individual response to the treatment.First, the healthcare provider will order some diagnostic reports, which will confirm the disease, its type, and its severity. Then they begin the treatment.

What are the symptoms of leprosy?

Some obvious signs and symptoms related to leprosy are given as follows:

  • Development of flat patches on the skin surface. They might be a little lighter and uneven in appearance than your normal skin color.
  • Small lumps, nodules, or sores appear on the skin.
  • Skin turns dry, thick, and stiff.
  • Appearance of painless ulcers on the soles of the feet.
  • Swelling and lumps on face and earlobes. The swelling does not cause any pain.
  • Nerve damage in eyes, legs, arms, etc.
  • Loss of eyelashes and eyebrows.

The symptoms of this disease usually take a very long time to appear. It might take 3 to 5 years, or the person may have the infection in their body for up to 20 years but they might remain asymptomatic when the symptoms start to show.

Types of leprosy

According to the Cleveland Clinic website, leprosy is classified into three main types, they are:

  1. Tuberculoid leprosy – Also known as paucibacillary leprosy. This type of leprosy usually gives rise to mild symptoms. The individual may develop a few skin sores. It can be easily treated with medications.
  2. Lepromatous leprosy – Also termed multibacillary leprosy, individuals with this type of leprosy develop skin sores widespread around their body and lesions that affect the skin, nerves, and organs.
  3. Borderline leprosy – In this type, the person experiences a combination of symptoms of both tuberculoid and lepromatous. It is also termed dimorphous leprosy.

How to prevent leprosy?

The best way to prevent the risk of developing leprosy is to get diagnostic tests for up to 5 years and if the infection is detected then getting it treated very early. This is applicable to people who had a close encounter with the person who has this disease.

Diagnosis and treatment of leprosy

The healthcare provider will perform a combination of several diagnostic tests to confirm the disease and identify the type of it and its severity. Based on the reports, they will begin the treatment. The treatment will be given through antibiotics and if it is a case of peripheral nerve damage, they will prescribe some other treatment, because antibiotics will not work in that case.


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